WHILE I, thine awful charms peruse,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And meditate the rustic Muse—
Wilt thou, Niagara, refuse
‡‡‡‡‡‡My humble lay,
Piped ere the time the morn her dews
‡‡‡‡‡‡Hath snatched away ?
I cannot “build the lofty rhyme”
Of solemn cadence, keeping time
With thy proud step and march sublime :
‡‡‡‡‡‡A task so hard,
Fits one of other age and clime,
‡‡‡‡‡‡As Scio’s bard.
But not the music of the spheres,
Alone delights th’ Almighty’s ears,
For He well-pleased the meanest hears,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The cricket even,
That all night long the hearth-stone cheers
‡‡‡‡‡‡With songs to Heaven.
Matchless in majesty and might,
Type of the Heavenly Infinite !
Unspeakable ! that dost delight,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And yet appall ;
While deep to deep, and depth to height
‡‡‡‡‡‡Incessant call !
Thou, like a racer, spurning curb,
That snuffs the fatness of the herb,
Or battle’s fierce alarms perturb—
‡‡‡‡‡‡Adown the steep,
With curved neck, thunderous and superb,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Dost fearless leap.
Or like some bird, gay plumes adorning,
Earth’s highest summits proudly scorning,
Seen soaring near the gates of morning,
‡‡‡‡‡‡With flashing crest,
Then stooping downward without warning
‡‡‡‡‡‡His rainbow breast.
What mean these constant earthquake shocks ?
Thy inland sea her gates unlocks,
And hither drives her fleecy flocks
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of waves, thence hurled,
Sheer o’er the precipice of rocks
‡‡‡‡‡‡And shakes the world.
A deep descent I reach at last,
The rocky floor, on which is cast
The watery column rising vast,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Th’ inflected River,
Which standing there through all the Past,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Shall stand forever.
I feel how awful is this place,
As, darkling, I my pathway trace
Behind the flood at thy dread base,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Baptized to thee,
As was to Moses Israel’s race,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Beneath the sea.
O God ! shut in by rock and sea,
What fitter place to bow the knee,
So cool and secret, near to Thee !
‡‡‡‡‡‡Hence, ye profane !
In Thy pavilion, here with me,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Lord, converse deign !
As drenched with the resilient spray,
I seek once more the open day,
I pause and muse how all decay :
‡‡‡‡‡‡Though this may seem,
Type of Eternity, ’twill pass away,
‡‡‡‡‡‡A murmurous dream.
Written in 1847.
Source: Abraham Coles. The Microcosm and Other Poems. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1881